I saw and experienced some amazing things on my recent trip to New Zealand. I saw a huge, snowcapped volcano and a boiling lake and river. I walked on a trail along a beach, trapped between cliffs and the ocean, hiked up a mountain through heavy wind, sleet, and rain. Still, what stands head and shoulders above the all of the incredible experiences I had was the Queen Charlotte Track.
After arriving in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, we took a three-hour ferry trip across the ocean gap between the North and South Islands to Picton, a small town at the top of the South Island. From there, I began my adventure.
What follows is an excerpt from the journal I kept in New Zealand covering the two days I spent trekking 30 miles through the Queen Charlotte Sound.
July 28: Today we get up early. We take our bags and go to a dock for a motorboat that’s supposed to take us to the Queen Charlotte Walk.
I’ve been hearing about the Queen Charlotte Walk for years, and ever since I had first heard about it, I’ve wanted to do it. A long multi-day hike with beautiful views and challenging terrain? Count me in.
It’s about an hour’s motorboat ride through a beautiful sound with mountainous green ridges rising up on either side of the water. The water’s color seems slightly off to me. It’s a lot bluer than what I’m used to. The air outside is fresh, completing this perfect scene.
The boat drops Baba (my grandfather) and I off at the track’s starting point (there’s a 4.5 km segment before, but we don’t have enough time to do it, so I’m just gonna pretend that it doesn’t count). Mama (my grandmother) can’t hike so she stays on the boat and goes to where Baba and I will stop later that day, about 23-25 kilometers away.
The early going is tough. It’s steep and my muscles aren’t used to the heavy lifting and walking that I’m doing.
For the first few kilometers, the trail follows a similar path: head up a semi-steep hill for about fifty yards, then round a bend and turn back into the mountain with gorgeous views of the sound off to the left. Then walk the steep-ish (although less steep-ish than before) path back into the mountain before crossing over a little stream with a tiny waterfall when turning back out of the mountain. Then repeat.
The weather is pleasant, the air is fresh and breezy, and the trekking is enjoyable and challenging.
At about the midpoint of the hike we stop for a short lunch including chocolate and dried apricots to give me enough energy to get through the day’s hiking.
For a short while after lunch we slog through grassy fields. Later on, for about a half hour, we walk through a weird forest that was strangely dim, the foliage blotting out the sun. We hop over a few streams and muddy patches that block the trail.
Throughout the whole day my grandfather and I are alone. We haven’t seen a single soul.
After five or six hours of journey we finish the fourteen miles and get to where we’re staying for the night where we’re grateful to Mama for the tasty soup she’s made.
After dinner, I read for a bit, then go to sleep early, at eight. What can I say? Huge hikes make me tired.
July 29: Today, after waking up early at about seven and eating breakfast, Baba and I head out for the second day of the Queen Charlotte Walk. It’s 45 minutes up a steep hill just to get to the start of the trail. My backpack’s straps dig into my back, making my shoulders red and raw.
It’s a drizzly kind of day, wet and damp, misty and moist.
About an hour into our hike, we stop to gaze at a beautiful rainbow, thicker and clearer than I’ve ever seen before. There’s another, smaller, rainbow right next to the big one. It’s incredible.
We journey on, trudging up and down steep ridges, muscles complaining painfully.
We tramp through woods, open areas, and rocky paths, all alone, not a single other hiker sharing the track with us. The hiking is tough and challenging but we forge on ahead.
I even use a hiking stick, sticking it into the soft ground, using it to push myself up the innumerable hills and to prevent myself from slipping down the muddy descents. By the end of the day I have a nasty blister on my thumb from rubbing against the stick so much.
After a few hours we stop for an impromptu lunch, crouching under the shade of some trees, shielding us from the incessant wind and drizzle.
The last two or three hours of walking after our lunch are tough. After walking 14 miles the day before, our muscles were already sore. Then what do we do? We get up early and head out again for another fifteen miles. Fabulous.
I realize that the only way I’ll make it through is if I ignore the gnawing pain. I get into a groove, thoughtlessly using the stick as a third leg, calling out an imaginary beat in my head. One step, two step, one step, two step.
The hills seem to get steeper and every step is painful on my poor feet which have been smushed against the ground with each step, thousands of times. By the end I’m staggering down the steep trail, rather than having to put any effort into moving.
We finally make it to the place we’re staying at tonight. Over a dinner of lentil soup, we discuss our plans for the next few days. Originally, the plan was for Baba and I to walk the last two but I’m exhausted and I don’t really want to head back out there.
I’m so fatigued that I go to bed at 6:40 and manage to fall asleep pretty quickly, spent from the lengthy hikes and stunning scenery.
Personal Bio: Sushi Kaplan is a JLBC intern, an incoming sophomore at Frisch, and a huge sports fan. Check out his sports blog at SushiOnSports.wordpress.com.
By Sushi Kaplan